Sidetracked!

Hello out there!

I’ve been very naughty, and haven’t written a single thing all week, but I promise you it’s for a good cause! Mama S (who is some kind of determined genius) and I have been working away at my new website, which I hope to launch very soon. We are basically teaching ourselves CSS and WordPress web design, so it’s been a real lesson (for me) in patience. I have none.

I don’t want to completely neglect my posts, so here’s some highlights of the week, complete with fuzzy iPhone photos.

2013-05-27 16.51.54We’re heading to the country this weekend to plant our seeds and seedlings into our garden. I sprouted some seeds with Aylu this week, and it’s amazing how quickly they’ve poked their little heads up. We’re going to sow the rest directly into the soil, which we’ll have delivered on Saturday morning. Before we can plant anything, we have to seal the wooden beds with an Eco sealant and line them with landscaping fabric. It’s going to be a busy weekend!

Last night I actually put on makeup and went out with Mama S and Nekky. Two of my beautiful Coquettes donated an aerial performance for a friend’s benefit, and we wanted to support the event. We lost one of our moms at school to cancer this year, and her children are each in Aylu and Hannu’s classes. She was the same age as me when she died after battling first breast cancer, then a brain tumor for about seven years. It’s so easy to feel totally helpless in the face of that kind of loss, adding to the event with some of our performers really seemed like the least we could do. There was an amazing band who played. CAI.RO is the name of the band, and they have such a wonderful sound. I’m so jaded, because I’m used to seeing bands that are really mediocre at these kinds of events, so it was a real treat to enjoy the music. They describe themselves as ‘cinematic folk pop’ and I’ve decided that I’m just going to love any music described as ‘cinematic’.

2013-05-24 14.58.53Noodle had a bunch of firsts this week. We visited my girlfriend Oonagh and he had his first play date with a boy his own age. Noodle cried and reached for me as he realized that boys play much rougher than his older sisters. By the end of the date, the little fellas were passing toys back and forth, so I think it ended well.  He also tried his first bites of sushi. We’ve been hitting a huge Asian supermarket in Markham called T&T for lunch on Saturdays while the girls are at Ismaili school. Last weekend we tore apart several California rolls for the baby to enjoy. Noah loves the grocery store, especially now that he’s big enough to ride around in a cart.2013-05-28 13.39.23

We’re a month away from moving, and I feel like I’m in a bit of denial. Boxes fill every room, as yet unpacked, but I just can’t bring myself to fill them. There are so many other things to do like writing, gardening, playing with the baby. I’ll figure it all out next week.

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Retail Reflections

Retail Reflections

fleamarket

I cemented something for myself last week – I hate the mall. Noodle was having a really fussy day, and Nekky was at a lunch meeting for most of the afternoon, so I packed up and headed to Yorkville Mall because I knew I’d get nothing done at home.

Shopping is the last thing I should be doing during these very frugal days, but I had a stack of gift certificates for Gap Kids and Gymboree, so I decided to take advantage and see what I could find for the monkeys. Noodle and I caught a lift with daddy, and soon we were fully immersed in the artificial oasis.

I’ve been doing a lot of thrifting lately. Most of the kids’ clothes, almost all of the baby’s clothes, and a large chunk of my maternity clothes were second hand. The women in my family have always loved a good treasure hunt. My mom and her sisters grew up very poor, and my clever grandmother managed to turn salvaging other people’s cast offs into a fun adventure. The glee with which my aunties can pour through a Value Village or Salvation Army was contagious as a child, and now I share that love of discovery.

I remember frequent trips to the nearby Amity with my Grandmaman when I would come to visit. We were allowed to pick out a simple toy to add to the toy box in her modest little apartment, and the result was a constantly refreshed trove for her many, many grandchildren to enjoy. One of my favorite playtime activities while visiting was to hand wash an entire vintage pillow case full of baby doll clothes using my grandmother’s own wash board. Then I would lovingly hang each tiny item to dry on the line she kept on her balcony. It’s no wonder that laundry is a chore I actually still enjoy.

My aunts invented Shabby Chic long before it was ever a thing. Each of them owns a collection of unique treasures discovered at antique markets, yard sales, and estate auctions. They’ve worked these gems into their décor with seamless elegance and whimsy. With a tilt of a head, they can re-imagine a sturdy chair with a new coat of paint or refreshed upholstery. They are such wonderfully creative women. market6

As Noodle and I strolled from one brightly lit store to the next, assaulted by the loud, obnoxious music, and overly friendly staff I began to feel more and more stressed out. The prices seemed ludicrous, even on the sale racks, and I couldn’t find anything that I wanted to use the gift certificates on. Soon Noodle began to fuss, because I think he felt affronted by all of the obnoxious over-stimulation. He began to return the overzealous employee greetings with stink-eye, and started trying to rip clothing off the racks while grunting like a little ape.

It was inevitable that I would soon feel the guilt creep in, I am a fallen Catholic after all, and I began thinking about all of those poor people in Bangladesh who died so horribly because they were neglected by a property owner who only cared about making money. In a sense, they died because we want the cheapest deal on manufactured goods, but so many of us are too proud to be caught re-using perfectly good items that are available everywhere for unbelievable prices.

The cheap labor debate is one that I have mixed feelings about. Some overseas factories really do offer people a livelihood and a means to support their family in the face of some seriously heinous alternatives. This is no excuse to neglect people or take such horrible advantage of their position. I think so many of us get caught up in our tendency towards commercialism that we don’t think much about how those much-coveted items arrive in our malls and how lives are affected in the process.

Of course I want adorable clothing for my kids. I also don’t want to waste some perfectly good gift certificates that were gifted to us. I LOVED the Joe label before this Bangladesh catastrophe gave me pause, but how can I spend money on their products when 300 people died and Joe doesn’t seem in any hurry to make their factory conditions better? The company website states that in the face of the Bangladesh tragedy they are “taking steps” to ensure better conditions, but I’ll be more impressed if they dedicate a portion of their website to seeing how that plays out. A carefully crafted press release feels a bit like lip service to me.

I’m not militant about these things. I’m lazy, and cheap, and I’m sometimes a real consumerist pig. I love Target for example, and I’ll probably keep shopping there, but we need to think about this, don’t we? How badly do we need “stuff”? Is it worth taking advantage of people who are already struggling so that we can get a cheap deal? Can’t we cough up a couple of additional dollars so that they can make a more decent wage?

It’s easy to just hit Walmart and drop some dollars to get the best deal. We do it every week for our groceries because the savings is unbelievable. How does a family of six justify spending hundreds of dollars more each week to buy locally raised meat and local produce? Costco has saved us SO MUCH MONEY!

I don’t have answers to these questions, and I’m not going to be a preachy hypocrite. I think it’s because I’m feeling my own disgust at all of the stuff we’ve amassed over the years that I feel so grossed out by consumerism. How do we make these issues better without extending ourselves beyond our means?  What can we actually do?

I suppose a place to start is buying clothing more responsibly. Here’s a great article from the National Post with some ethical shopping tips. I’d love to hear from readers about how this. Are you shopping ethically? If not, what’s stopping you? If so, can you give us tips to make this work for our large family?

Zombies, Boobies and Bamboo

Screen shot 2013-05-14 at 8.39.04 PMSome pretty bizarre things can occupy my brain space, and this week has been no exception. Have a listen and let me know if you think I’m nuts.

 The Walking Dead

We’ve started watching the AMC series ‘The Walking Dead” and of course we’re hooked. We polished off season one last night, and though I love the show, I feel consumed with guilt because Noah is usually up while we’re watching. We don’t let him actively see the TV, because none of our children watch much TV, and because I don’t think his infant brain should be exposed to rotting animated corpses, but I’ve convinced myself that the mere sounds of the living dead eating human flesh will corrupt him.

Today he began making this low, grunting noise all day long. At first we were jokingly calling him Randy Macho Man Savage. However, watching him sitting at the head of the table, half asleep with a glazed expression, gaping mouth waiting for the next spoonful, growling loudly, I could only think one thing. Zombies. I worry that despite all of our careful efforts, the wrong ideas are still seeping into our kids’ melons.

Further evidence to this fact was Hannah watching daddy prepare the massive beef tenderloin he grilled for dinner tonight. She squealed with delight and said, “Daddy! Pick up the knife in your bloody hands again! You look like a murderer and the tenderloin looks like the leg of a sexy lady!”

Jesus. Christ. How much of Dexter was wafting up the stairs and permeating their sleeping minds??

 

Angelina’s Boobs

You’ve all heard the news by now, of course. If not, check out the scoop here. I woke up this morning feeling pretty impressed by Angelina sharing her story so publicly. In fact, I will freely and openly admit that her actions inspired me to also get tested for this gene at my next physical. I will also admit that because an enormously famous sexy babe elected to have her breasts removed (and no doubt replaced with a pair of awesome fake boobs) I absolutely feel like that decision is one that I would be just a bit more comfortable making for myself.

What does that make me? A lemming? A sheep that is too easily influenced by the media? I don’t know why Angelina suddenly made lopping my boobs off okay. Actually, I do. It had little to do with Angelina and more to do with how cancer has ravaged too many people who I am genetically linked to, and taken them away from us too soon. Something about a superstar admitting so publicly to their own bold decisions to protect their family from the tragedy of cancer was inspiring. The end.

 

Bamboo

Our eldest daughter has been working hard at her first independent study project this week. Her class each had to choose a traditional home structure to research and build on their own. The structure needs to be one that is man-made and the materials used in this project had to represent these kinds of materials. Hannah chose an Iraqi reed house.

She determined that woven materials would work best for building the house, which is made entirely of reeds. We determined that Chinatown was the most obvious place in the city to shop for woven things. Nekky and I grabbed the girls from school and set off, planning to have Mamma S meet us there for dinner when she was done work.

The first shop we hit was Plaiter Place. We had our big stroller to contend with and a sleeping Noah inside, so Nek parked it as strategically as he could near the cash. The store was tiny, but we managed to find a spot that didn’t block the cash from the customers or block in the lady who was working at the counter. The store was a goldmine. We found all of the supplies we needed in short order, and then a whole bunch of other beautiful things for our homeschool classroom, and a couple of fun trinkets for Ayla.

As we respectfully made our way through the shop, admiring everything, I noticed a man who was working there in some kind of serious frenzy, racing around. He seemed very irate. While Nekky and Hannah were making their final decisions at the back of the store, Ayla and I headed to the front of the store to check on Noah and to decide on which little delight she would go home with.

Irate shop-keeper man came charging to the front of the store, and rather than going around the stroller, or letting me move it out of the way, as I clearly offered, and he ignored, he shoved the stroller and rushed past it, knocking over a basket full of little wallets. As I stooped to pick them up and collect my baby and my Ayla, the shopkeeper revealed that he did, in fact, speak some English when he uttered “FUCK!” In front of my seven year old.

I ushered Ayla and Noah outside, texting Nekky to let him know what happened. He sent the girls and I ahead while first he checked the next store to make sure they had supplies we could use, and then he exchanged some choice words with the shop-keeper at Plaiter Place. In front of some more would-be customers.

We used this as an opportunity to teach the girls about customer service, and how we only spend our money in places where they treat their customers respectfully. Ayla was a bit stunned at how rude the guy was. Hannah was worried that we wouldn’t be able to find materials elsewhere.

Fast-forward to after an exhaustive hunt of Chinatown with two sleepy girls followed by a fairly epic Korean feast when we realize that one key piece we’ll need for windows can only be found in Plaiter Place. What were we to do? Send Mamma S on a covert operation of course! Yet another instance where three parents give us an advantage.

Of course the kids IMMEDIATELY figured out what was happening, and totally called us out with a classic “But YOU said…” We’re not perfect. Not by any stretch, and so I used our hypocrisy as another life lesson and said that we would go to great lengths to make sure our children succeed with all of the projects they tackle in life. Sigh.

Project reed house has blown our minds. No surprises, Hannah is brilliant. I’ll share some of her mad skills later this week. Meanwhile, let’s pray my children don’t start eating brains, stalking hookers, or getting into fist fights with shopkeepers.

 

 

 

 

16 Days

A Little Tin of Chocolate

I began writing this blog in 2008, fresh after a breakup from a very complicated relationship, and filled with excitement because I was about to embark on a solo vacation to Paris. Life felt pretty huge and terrifying then. I was raw with emotion, and apprehensive about what the future held for me. When I returned from my trip, I would have no place to live, and I’d be facing the realities of being single and thirty-something.

I drank Paris in, and fell deeply in love with a city that I always suspected would have a special place in my heart. Because I was on a very tight budget, I allowed myself only a few token souvenirs, mostly purchased at a well-stocked supermarket and the Parisian equivalent of Winners. One of these mementos was a tin of French drinking chocolate, so I could enjoy the delicious little ritual I had created for myself each afternoon no matter where I ended up back home in Canada.

When my new family and I combined our households, the chocolate tin came with me. I hadn’t expected the chocolate to survive, but the tin was pretty so I imagined we could use it for storage in our kitchen. French chocolate is resilient though, and to my amazement still tastes as good as it did when I first bought it almost five years ago.

On Tuesday night, A and Daddy made us a post-dinner hot chocolate and marshmallow nightcap, and all five of us sat around the table enjoying it together. As I gazed at the faces of these beautiful girls who have been one of the greatest gifts of my life thus far, I was suddenly overcome with emotion. Strolling through the aisles of that Parisian grocery store, trying to choose just the right thing to bring home, I had resigned myself to believing that children and family were a long, long way off and perhaps something that were not meant for me in Schnooville. But now I sat surrounded by my family, (a family I have chosen against all odds, and a family who freely chose me despite all of my flaws), drinking that Parisian chocolate and ready to burst with another brand new life who gets to go through each day with these wonderful people. I feel no fear about this huge milestone because my heart believes I am exactly where I should be, with the people I need most in my life.

Look defeat in the eye and love yourself even harder. Tell disappointment that you deserve better. Treat your broken heart to vacations and decadent chocolate and trust that somehow, probably in the most unpredictable way, it will all work out. If you believe that you are lovable, the love you crave will find you.

H & A Enjoy Some Tummy Time:

Twelve Weeks

I think I’ve been suffering from an identity crises. It’s been a long time since I’ve visited Schnooville, and since those days of writing with wanton abandon I’ve learned to censor myself, compartmentalize my personality into a series of personas, hold my tongue, stay in my house, and generally be wary and tired where the world is concerned.

Something about growing a person (yay, big news!!!!) kind of snaps you back to reality – or at least in the direction of the reality that you want. Schnooville is my zone, and I’m not ready to leave it behind. I might never be ready to stop sharing my slice of the world here. It feels good. It feels connected to something bigger than me. It feels useful. Most importantly, it feels like me and not some construct for public consumption. Ironic perhaps, but “me” is kind of where I need to be right now.

I’m staring down the barrel of my life these days. Some of it is working beautifully, and some of it is not and I can’t keep holding on to a dream that may never bear fruit. I want a real job (funny time to realize that), I want to contribute to my family in a measurable way, and I want to be realistic about what is possible and what is not. I want to have it all, but I’m fine tuning what the “it” is. I’m dreaming of a blissful, exhausting, enlightening year and a half of early motherhood and then perhaps school, or training, and a whole new path.

I’m posting some entries here that I wrote over several months leading up to present day. Apologies if you’ve read some of them before. They used to live on a blog I created when I thought I might become the poster child for my alternative lifestyle. The truth is, I’m still figuring out how to live, so I don’t really feel like I’m in a position of advocacy, unless there is some merit in advocating getting through each day feeling really good.

That’s my goal now – one foot in front of the other, careful steps, lots of truth, and hopefully good choices.

As for baby, whom the girls have affectionately dubbed as “Mixed Bacon” because this is a term they have created for a person of unknown gender, it’s happy and healthy thus far and my fingers and toes remain crossed that all will continue to go well.

Power Outage

I’m exhausted today for no explicable reason. I slept well last night, with a decent bed time. So strange…

At 2:30 this afternoon the power failed, fortunately right after I completed the work projects on my to-do list for the day, so I did what any reasonable person would do – I curled up on the sofa with a book and promptly fell asleep. It wasn’t much of a nap though, so I expect it will be a low-key evening for me. Everyone should nap. I really love it so much – the process of just shutting off for an hour or so in the middle of the day.

We’re in the home stretch now before our loved ones return and I’m so looking forward to hearing all of their stories and seeing all of the pictures. This trip was important for us – lots of things were discovered about our relationships, and for me despite how hard it was, it was really good to miss these people that I love. I feel like the “me” time was really rewarding, and I feel like I will appreciate everyone even more when they return.

How incredible for my lady and I to just enjoy each others’ company. I so enjoyed the chats we had, the meals we shared, and the little dates we made along the way. It was nice to know that we manage just fine on our own.

Some additional killer recipes were discovered on Epicurious:

This stir-fry is astounding. I added a clove of minced garlic, and used only one mandarin orange and it was perfect.

Last night I tried this with a Rowe Farms chicken. My lady had a funny tummy, so the subtle flavour really hit the spot. Delicious. I roasted it until the thigh read 185 degrees.

This weekend includes visits with friends, brunch to celebrate the engagement of my best guy pal to his lovely lady, dancing with some hot babes, and a visit with my family to celebrate my dad’s and brother’s birthdays. So many Leos in Schnooville! I feel inspired right now, and so grateful for the abundance of love and opportunity in my life. I even have the great Arthur visiting for the weekend. Now I just need some caffeine so I can go and take a bite out of Friday night.

 

A Slice of Heaven

From apartmenttherapy.com

The image above was featured today on Apartment Therapy, one of my favourite blogs. I think this might be my dream home and my dream bedroom. My taste is changing so much. I used to love riots of colour and kitsch, and now the serenity and calm of modern lines, with natural elements really speak to me. For you designer-types, I’d call it eco-conscious mid-century modern.

Serenity. That’s my word for this 35th year of my life. I’m going to make it my absolute priority to transcend my tendency towards stress, anxiety, worry, and fiesty-ness. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to accomplish this, but I’ll be sure to share whatever I’ve learned. One thing I realized, just this morning, is that the more irritable and anxious I am, the more I need alone time. I think if I’m not careful just to take time out, just for me, for mindless alone activities I start to go a little squirrely.

A cottage weekend is on the horizon. My grown-up dream is to have a very green cottage. No motor boats, totally sustainable, and totally escape pod like. It will have to have a fully outfitted kitchen, amazing indoor and outdoor dining space, quiet corners for reading, and a body of water at either the front door or back door. In a perfect life, when we’re not traveling, I’m living there as long as I can and only heading back to the city when I absolutely need to. I think I’d rather invest in something like that than a permanent dwelling in the city. I hope I can convince my loves that this is a great idea. The girls would absolutely love it and really benefit from it too. The only unfortunate part is the commuting to and from. Not so green, but if we pack 5 people in the car, and only travel when we absolutely need to, perhaps it’s not so bad?

So, this weekend will be my quiet wicker swing. I’m so looking forward to being near the lake again.